DALLAS—Poverty, domestic violence, child abuse, breast cancer: these obstacles and more have not stopped three Dallas County Community College District students from building new lives for themselves and others. As a result of their bravery and perseverance, Susana Carrillo, Stephanie Johnson and Carolyn Iduh have been chosen to receive the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Endowed Scholarship.
Carrillo, Johnson and Iduh all have overcome childhood hardships or domestic abuse. Johnson is a breast cancer survivor; Iduh left her native Nigeria to come to America, where she struggled when the funds promised to support her fell through; and Carrillo endured a physically abusive husband.
All three students will be recognized as 2016-2017 recipients of the Dallas County Community College District’s Kramp Scholarship during a special awards dinner on Wed., June 22, at a dining establishment in Dallas.
The scholarship, which is administered by the DCCCD Foundation, will help Carrillo, Johnson and Iduh reach for their dreams with financial support from the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation scholarship award, which covers full tuition and books for up to six semesters.
The courage and perseverance shown by all three students in the face of adversity are traits exhibited by the person for whom the Foundation and scholarship are named. Erin Tierney Kramp, who fought breast cancer from 1994 to 1998, created a videotaped legacy on “life lessons” for her daughter, Peyton, prior to her death. The videotapes became tools that conveyed Erin’s views and advice to Peyton as the young girl grew up, following her mother’s death.
Erin touched many lives and inspired countless strangers when she co-authored “Living with the End in Mind” (written with her husband and a family friend) and through appearances on programs like 20/20 and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey featured the Kramp story/segment as one of her “most memorable guests” during a May 2011 farewell show as the program reached its historic end. Erin’s legacy lives on through the Erin Tierney Kramp Encouragement Foundation, its scholarship program and the lives of all of its recipients.
“The Erin Tierney Kramp program awards scholarships to students based on their courage and perseverance in the face of adversity,” said Michael Brown, president of the Erin Tierney Kramp Foundation. “We see these qualities in all three students this year – Susana, Stephanie and Carolyn– and know that they are survivors. Their stories exemplify what our past recipients have demonstrated repeatedly through Erin’s legacy. When individuals face adversity, the struggles they endure will either make them stronger or defeat them. Winning that battle requires both courage and perseverance – traits possessed by all of our former recipients and certainly these three new recipients as well.”
Susana Carrillo: Beating Abuse, Becoming a Role Model
Surviving her first marriage with broken bones and broken promises – and without support from her own family, Carrillo endured abuse, uncertainty and even the denial of a protective order until she documented her injuries. Finally able to file for divorce, Susana tried to start a new life.
Unfortunately, Susana became engaged to a supportive man who eventually became jealous and abusive, too. Despondent inside, she hid her problems at work, sleeping little and eating even less. She was devastated to find that what appeared to be a new, positive relationship had crumbled into dust.
Carrillo began to see a psychiatrist and a psychologist so that she could share her problems with family members, grieve and change her own thinking process. That’s when she decided it was time to go to college and enrolled at Brookhaven. The mother of four children (including one set of twins) and proud grandmother wants her family to remember her for overcoming the adversity she faced instead of those early years of abuse and despair.
Susana currently has earned a 3.92 grade point average; is co-vice president of leadership for Phi Theta Kappa, an academic honorary for two-year colleges; and is majoring in computer information technology, specifically web production and design.
Carrillo said, “I want to be able to help young girls avoid abusive relationships and to raise awareness about domestic violence, starting with my twins.”
Stephanie Johnson: Overcoming Poverty, Abuse and Breast Cancer
Faced with extreme poverty and childhood abuse, El Centro College student Stephanie Johnson grew up without a father (who was serving a 10-year prison sentence) and finally ended up in foster care. She lived in a facility with other disadvantaged and troubled youth, fighting to graduate from school on time and to overcome the psychological scars from her childhood.
After marriage and motherhood at an early age, Johnson escaped a violent relationship and learned to love herself for who she is, only to face a battle with breast cancer in 2011 at age 38. Johnson’s battle with cancer lasted a year, including four months of chemotherapy and three operations. A self-employed artist with no health insurance, she was faced with finding health care providers and facilities that would treat her – and she prevailed.
Starting yet again, Stephanie decided to go to college and pursue her dream of becoming an artist. Using a portion of her tax return, Johnson paid for her first class. She remains involved in neighborhood activities where she lives, and helps others in need. Her dream is to transfer to Southern Methodist University to earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
Johnson said, “I have worked over this lifetime to grow into the woman I am today. I truly believe that it would be a great dishonor to the life I have been granted to not do what is in my soul: to earn my bachelor’s degree and become the artist I want to be.”
Carolyn Iduh: Conquering Adversity, Becoming a Doctor
Nigerian native and El Centro student Carolyn Iduh had dreamed about becoming a doctor since she was a young child. She excelled in school but also experienced firsthand the challenges of coming from a home where her once-loving dad abandoned the family and constantly beat her mother.
Carolyn grew up quickly, working part time to help her mother, whose own job kept her away at night.? She made sure her siblings stayed in school and eventually began to work full time, again to help her mom.
Sometimes Carolyn cried herself to sleep at night, sad about her situation and yet determined to go to school and become a doctor. She became a tutor, learned and used some nursing skills, and began helping people online who were sick, young or from broken homes. Iduh taught in her church; she also served as a motivational speaker and counselor in communities, schools and online. In spite of the challenges she has faced, she continues helping many young people fulfill their dreams.
Iduh’s dream to enroll in college in the United States and to become a neurosurgeon became reality a year ago when one of her pastors in Nigeria sponsored her to come to the U.S. to study. Joyfully, she left her country and came to America, without a home or friends. Then the funds to support her fell through. Since then, she has been working on campus and struggles to pay for her education.
“I refuse to give up. I wake up each day not knowing how I am going to survive, but I smile, knowing that God loves me and that he brought me here. Reaching out to others daily gives me strength and joy to overcome and stand up to any adversity,”she said.
Iduh has earned a 3.7 cumulative GPA. She also wants to establish a scholarship foundation to help young people; to help women and children fight HIV/AIDS; and to celebrate young people and their impact by starting a television show.